In the process of making a major health-related decision, here are four questions to ask yourself while weighing your options:
- Are you well-informed? Do you have solid information, based on good scientific evidence, to support your decision? Good scientific evidence comes from places like peer-reviewed medical journals, as opposed to a consumer magazine or an online chat group.
- Are you applying your values to this decision? What really matters to you? All major health decisions carry a tradeoff between risks and benefits. Investigate these factors so you can decide which risks you want to avoid the most, or which benefits you're most hoping to gain.
- Do you have sufficient support from your family, friends, and other important people in your life to help make your choice a success? Do those whose opinion you value the most support your decision?
- Are you sure about your decision? If not, perhaps you need a second opinion from another doctor or more information to answer an important question that lingers.
Once you've made your decision to move forward, keep these suggestions in mind when discussing medications or other long-term treatments that will require your participation.
- Ask the usual questions. Before you agree to drug therapy, for example, ask your doctor if the medication is truly necessary and proven to work for your condition. Are other options available?
- If you do go with the medication, ask about benefits and side effects. If the drug causes side effects, is there anything you can do to prevent or reduce/eliminate them? What benefit is the medication supposed to provide you? If the benefits are noticeable, how long before you start to see them? If you're experiencing side effects or aren't noticing a benefit, when should you call your health care team?
- If you become nonadherent, ask yourself why. People who stop taking their medications or veer off their treatment course may not put a lot of thought into why they're quitting or what they could do to stay on course. Hopefully you understand why you need the treatment, and you trust your doctor's approach because you have communicated well and you made the decision together. Instead of just stopping any treatment plan, investigate your reasons why you're having trouble and see if you can find a solution with your medical team's input.
For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms.